The first operation of the DPRK Air Force during the so-called. The “War of the Liberation of the Fatherland” (the official name of the Korean War, which marched 1950 in July 1953) was attacked by Yak-9 fighter planes on the territory of Seoul International Airport 25 in June 1950. Before the UN operation began three months later North Korean pilots on the Yak-9 fighters had five confirmed air victories: one B-29, two L-5, one F-80 and one F-51D, without losing. The situation changed completely when the air forces of the countries of the international coalition settled in the South, and the air forces of the DPRK were almost completely destroyed. The remaining aircraft were transferred across the Chinese border to the cities of Mukden and Anshan, where in November 1950, together with the Chinese Air Force, the United Air Force was created. The PRC continued to provide shelter and assistance to its southern neighbor, and by the end of the fighting in 1953, the DPRK air force numbered about 135 MiG-15 fighters. The peace treaty between North and South Korea has not been signed, and since then there has been a fragile peace between the two camps.
From 1969 and to the present, the DPRK air forces are not showing high activity, with the exception of some spurious jet aircraft attacks in the area of the Demilitarized Zone (DZ) / Line of tactical actions, which are supposedly aimed at checking the reaction time of the South Korean air defense. For example, with 2011, the North Korean fighter MiG-29 several times forced to intercept the South Korean F-16 and F-15K to intercept.
Selection and training
Cadets for the Air Force are selected from other branches of the Armed Forces, are recruited or recruited on a voluntary basis. Flight crews are selected from the most successful members of the Youth Red Guard (consisting of 17-25 summer young people) and usually come from politically influential families, differing by a higher educational level than the average North Korean.
The first step for those who want to become a military pilot in the DPRK is the Air Force Academy. Kim Chkhek in Cheongyin, where cadets have been studying for four years. Their flight service begins with 70 flight practice hours on Nanchang CJ-6 training aircraft, which are a Chinese copy of the Soviet Yak-18. 50 such aircraft were obtained in 1977-1978's. They are based on two airfields on the east coast in Chongjin and Gyeongsong. Later, after receiving the rank of second lieutenant or “Sowi”, the cadets go on to the 22-month in-depth course at Könson Officer Flight School. It includes 100 flying hours on MiG-XNUMHUTI fighter trainers (15 was purchased in 50-1953) or about the same outdated MiG-1957 fighters deployed at the nearby Oran airbase.
After graduating from a flight school with the rank of first lieutenant or “Jungwi”, a freshly baked pilot receives an assignment to the combat unit for further two-year studies, following which he is considered fully trained. Future helicopter pilots are trained on Mi-2 helicopters, and transport pilots aviation - on the An-2. An officer can count on 30 years of service, but moving to higher ranks, the highest of which is the Air Force General or Deajang, requires many additional courses, and the highest posts are political appointments.
The training follows the rigid doctrine of the Soviet era, and must conform to a strictly centralized structure of leadership and control of the Air Force. Through interviews with defectors to South Korea, it becomes clear that poor maintenance of aircraft, a shortage of fuel that limits the raid and also a generally unsatisfactory training system impede the training of pilots of the same level as their Western opponents.
The current structure of the DPRK air force includes headquarters, four air divisions, two tactical air brigades and such a number of sniper brigades (special forces) that are called upon to carry out an assault landing in the enemy’s rear in order to disorganize it during combat operations.
The main headquarters is located in Pyongyang, it directly supervises a special flight squad (VIP transportation), Gyönson officer flight school, reconnaissance, EW, test units, as well as all parts of North Korean Air Forces air defense.
Offensive and defensive weapons are part of the three aviation divisions deployed in Kesong, Toksan and Khvandzhu, which are responsible for the use of numerous artillery anti-aircraft systems and air defense systems. The remaining aviation division in Oran is intended for operational training. Two tactical transport brigades have their headquarters in Tachon and Sondok.
Aviation divisions and tactical brigades have several airfields at their disposal, almost all have fortified hangars, and some have individual infrastructure elements hidden in the mountains. But not all are attributed to "their" aircraft. The DPRK plan in case of war provided for the dispersal of aircraft from the main bases in order to complicate their destruction by a preemptive strike.
The Air Force has at its disposal not only “stationary” airbases: the DPRK is braided by a network of long and direct highways, which are crossed by other highways with the help of large concrete bridges. And although this can be observed in other countries, there is no private transport in the DPRK, moreover, women are even forbidden to drive a bicycle. Goods are transported by rail and road transport is very small. Motorways are designed for the rapid movement of military units throughout the country, as well as as alternate aerodromes in case of war.
The main task of the DPRK air force is air defense, which is carried out by an automated airspace control system, which includes a network of radar stations located throughout the country and providing coverage of the air situation over the Korean Peninsula and southern China. The entire system consists of the only air defense district in which all operations are coordinated from the combat command post at the headquarters of the DPRK Air Force. The district is divided into four sector commanders: the north-west, north-east, south and Pyongyang air defense sub-sectors. Each sector consists of a headquarters, an airspace control center, an early radar warning regiment (s), an air defense regiment (s), an air defense artillery division and other independent air defense units. In case of detection of the intruder, the alarm is raised in the fighter units, the planes themselves are raised into the air, and the SAM and anti-aircraft artillery take aim at the escort. Further actions of the air defense missile system and artillery must be coordinated with the fighter aviation headquarters and the combat command center.
The main components of the system are based around semi-mobile early warning radars, including Russian early warning radars and 5Н69 guidance systems, two of which were delivered to 1984. These systems, whose declared detection range is 600 km, are supported by three CT-68 missile radars received in 1987-1988. They can simultaneously detect up to 100 air targets at a maximum range of 175 km and are optimized for detecting low-flying targets and targeting C-75 SAM missiles. The older P-10 systems, 20 of which entered service in 1953-1960, have the maximum detection range in 250 km, and five more relatively newer P-20 radars with the same detection range are elements of the radar field system. It includes at least 300 radar fire control for the barrel artillery.
It is unlikely that the North Koreans have only these systems. The DPRK often finds ways to circumvent the regime of international sanctions designed to prevent new weapons systems from falling into their hands.
The actions of the DPRK Air Force, the number of which reaches 100000, are determined by two basic provisions of the basic doctrine of the North Korean army: joint operations, the integration of guerrilla warfare with the actions of regular troops; and the “war on two fronts”: coordination of regular troops operations, partisan operations, as well as special operations forces in the depths of South Korea. Four main tasks of the Air Force follow from this: air defense of the country, landing of special operations forces, tactical air support of the ground forces and fleet, transport and logistics tasks.
The solution to the first of the four tasks, the air defense, lies on fighter aircraft, which consists of roughly 100 fighter jets Shenyang F-5 (Chinese copy of MiG-17, 200 of which were obtained in 1960-s), the same number of Shenyang F-6 / Shenyang F-6C (Chinese version of the MiG-19PM), delivered in 1989-1991.
The F-7B is a Chinese version of the later versions of the MiG-21. 25 fighters MiG-21bis remain in service, which are the remnants of those 30 former vehicles of the Kazakh Air Forces illegally purchased in Kazakhstan in 1999. DPRK air forces received at least 174 MiG-21 of different modifications in 1966-1974. Approximately 60 MiG-23, mainly modifications of the MiG-23ML were obtained in 1985-1987.
The most powerful fighters of the DPRK are the MiG-29Б / УБ, those that remained from the 45 purchased in 1988-1992. Approximately 30 of them were assembled at an aircraft factory in Pakchon, which was specifically designed to build this particular type of aircraft. But the idea failed because of the arms embargo imposed by Russia as a result of disputes over payments.
North Korean ingenuity is beyond doubt, and there is no reason to believe that they, given the attention that the regime devotes to military issues, cannot be maintained in a flying state by aircraft that have long been a place in the scrap metal dump, as is the case with Iran. Of these aircraft, only the MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-29 are armed with air-to-air missiles: 50 Р-27 (purchased in 1991), 450 Р-23 (supplied in 1985-1989) and 450 P-60 purchased at the same time. More than 1000 P-13 rockets (a Soviet copy of the American AIM-9 Sidewinder) were obtained in 1966-1974, but their lifespan should have now expired. Additional deliveries may have occurred in violation of international sanctions.
The strike forces are up to 40 attack aircraft Nanchang A-5 Fantan-A, delivered in 1982, the remaining 28-30 fighter-bombers Su-7B, acquired in 1971, and to 36 attack aircraft Su-25К / БК, acquired in the end 1980's The DPRK maintains a significant number (80 or more) of Harbin H-5 front-line bombers (a Chinese copy of Soviet Il-28), some of which belong to the reconnaissance HZ-5, flying.
The direct support of the troops is provided by the majority of those set out in 1985-1986. The 47 Mi-24D helicopters, of which only 20 is estimated to remain in operational status. They, like the Mi-2 helicopters, are armed with the Malyutka and Fagot anti-tank missiles produced in the DPRK under a Soviet license.
Some of the H-5 bombers are adapted to launch the North Korean version of the Chinese anti-ship cruise missile CSS-N-1, designated KN-01 Keumho-1. The missile has a range of 100-120 km, 100 were released in 1969-1974. In 1986, five anti-submarine helicopters Mi-14PL were received, but their current state is unknown.
It is believed that the DPRK is armed with UAVs, it is also known that the Russian Malachite complex with ten tactical drone Bumblebee-1 was purchased in 1994. It would not be a surprise to learn that Pyongyang used them as models for developing its own UAVs.
Logistics support is provided by Air Koryo, the state-owned air carrier, but at the same time being the transport regiment of the DPRK's air force. Today, the airline’s fleet consists of a single IL-18В (supplied in 1960-s), as well as three IL-76ТD (operated from 1993). Other types of aircraft are represented by the An-24 family, four IL-62М, the same number of Tu-154М, a pair of Tu-134 and Tu-204. The company also operates an unknown number of helicopters. Although their primary purpose is military, they carry civilian registration, which allows them to fly outside the DPRK.
Currently, there are no clear signs of the DPRK modernization of its aviation, despite the fact that a high-ranking North Korean procurement delegation visited Russia in August last year.
Of course, the DPRK air defense system is based on three main “pillars” - air defense systems. This is the C-75 ADMS, in 1962-1980. 2000 missiles and 45 launchers were supplied, and this system is the most numerous. Many of them have recently been deployed near the 38 parallel, and most of the remaining ones protect three corridors - one goes along Kaeshon, Sarivon, Pyongyang, Pakcheon and Sinyiju on the west coast. The other two pass along the east coast between Wonsan, Hamhung and Sinpo, and between Chongjin and Najin.
In 1985, 300 missiles and eight C-125 SAM systems were delivered, most of them covering high-value objects, in particular Pyongyang and military infrastructure objects. In 1987, four launchers and 48 C-200 missiles were purchased. These long-range systems for medium and high altitudes use the same guidance radar as the C-75. Four regiments, armed with this type of air defense missile system, are deployed alongside their colleagues with the C-75 air defense missile system (optimized to combat high-altitude targets).
Another numerous type of air defense missile system is the KN-06 - a local copy of the Russian two-digital C-300 air defense system. Its firing range is estimated at km 150. This system, mounted on a truck chassis, was first publicly presented at a military parade dedicated to the 65 anniversary of the founding of the North Korean Workers' Party in October 2010.
Considerable effort is expended on complicating the destruction of missile systems and the associated radar systems from the air. Most of the North Korean early warning radars, target tracking and missile guidance are located either in large underground concrete bunkers protecting against WMD, or in dug mountain shelters. These facilities consist of tunnels, a control point, calculations and blast-resistant steel doors. If necessary, the radar antenna rises a special elevator to the surface. There are also a lot of false radar and missile launchers, as well as spare sites for the air defense system.
DPRK air forces are also responsible for the use of MANPADS. The most numerous are MANPADS "Strela-2", but in this case in 1978-1993. about 4500 of North Korean copies of the Chinese HN-5 MANPADS were delivered to the troops. In 1997, Russia transferred to the DPRK a license for the production of 1500 Igla-1 MANPADS. The Strela-2 is a first-generation MANPADS, which can only be induced from near-infrared radiation, mostly engine exhaust. On the other hand, the Igla-1 is equipped with a dual-mode (infrared and ultraviolet) guidance head, which can be directed to less powerful sources of radiation emanating from an airframe. Both systems are optimized for use against low-flying targets.
Speaking of the air defense artillery systems, it should be noted that their backbone are 100-mm guns of the KS-19 developed by the 1940-ies. 500 guns of this type were delivered to 1952-1980, followed by 1995 guns in 24. More lethal are about 400 self-propelled anti-aircraft guns - 57-mm ZSU-57 and 23-mm ZSU 23 / 4, obtained in 1968-1988. This arsenal covers large cities, ports, large enterprises. The DPRK has also developed its own self-propelled 37-mm anti-aircraft gun, called the M1992, which strongly resembles Chinese samples.
The existing weapons allowed us to create one of the densest air defense systems in the world. The emphasis on air defense missile systems and receiver artillery is a direct result of Pyongyang’s inability to acquire modern fighters or even spare parts for the antiques that make up most of the DPRK's air force. The probe of the positions of China and Russia in 2010 and 2011 was rejected by both countries. As a rogue state on the world stage, the CPD has gained a reputation as an optional payer for goods already delivered, and even China, which for many years has been an ally and assistant to North Korea, is irritated by the behavior of its southern neighbor. Much to Beijing’s displeasure, it deliberately refuses to create a market economy of the same type that proved so successful during the reforms in China.
Maintaining the status quo and continuing the oppression of its people are the main driving forces of the DPRK leaders. It turns out that it is much cheaper to create or threaten to create a nuclear weapons, which can disturb and threaten potential external aggressors, than to buy and maintain modern armed forces. The leadership of North Korea quickly learned from the fate of Colonel Gaddafi, who yielded to the requirements of the West and destroyed his nuclear potential and other types of weapons of mass destruction by joining the "good guys" club.
The second task facing the DPRK air force is to deploy special operations forces to the Korean Peninsula. It is estimated that there are up to 200000 people in the North Korean army who are called upon to perform a similar task. Landing is largely carried out thanks to the 150 transport aircraft An-2 and its Chinese copy of Nanchang / Shijiazhuang Y-5. In 1980-s. bypassing the sanctions it was secretly purchased around 90 helicopters Hughes 369D / E, and it is believed that today 30 of them are still able to take to the air. This type of helicopter constitutes a significant part of the South Korean aircraft fleet, and in the case of the penetration of special operations forces south of the border, they can bring confusion to the ranks of the defenders. Interestingly, South Korea has an unknown number of An-2, allegedly having similar tasks.
The next most popular type of helicopter in service in the People's Republic of China is the Mi-2, which numbers around 70. But they have a very small payload. Probably, in small quantities in service is a veteran of the Mi-4. The only modern types of helicopters are Mi-26, four copies of which were obtained in 1995-1996. and 43 Mi-8T / MTV / Mi-17, at least eight of which were obtained illegally from Russia in 1995.
Should we be afraid of North Korea?
The North Korean armed forces exist solely for the defense of the Fatherland and the threat of an invasion of South Korea. Any such invasion will begin with a mass attack of the South from low altitudes, and special air operations will be abandoned across the front line in order to “turn off” strategic facilities before the ground attack through the Demilitarized Zone (DZ). Although this threat may seem fantastic due to the state of the DPRK's air force, it cannot be completely discounted. The importance that South Korea attaches to its own defense testifies to this. Over the past twenty years, four new North Korean air bases have been created near the DZ, which reduces the flight time to Seoul to a few minutes. Seoul itself is a large target, it is one of the largest cities in the world, whose population exceeds 10 million people. More than half of the population of South Korea lives in the surrounding agglomeration of Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, which is the second indicator in the world: 25 million people live here and most of the country's industry is located.
There is no doubt that even if following the results of the conflict the North will suffer huge losses, it will also be destructive for the South. The shock to the global economy will also be serious. It is worth mentioning that at the end of 2010, when the Northmen fired at the South Korean island, there were large maneuvers during which a massive air raid was practiced, which was supposedly an imitation of a large-scale war. The result was, to some extent, turned into a farce, since during the exercise clashes took place, low reliability, weak command and control, and an unsystematic plan were revealed.
No one can say in which direction the modern leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong-un, will lead the country, and to what extent he is just a puppet in the hands of the old guard, who has usurped power. What can be sure is that there are no signs of change on the horizon. And the world community is looking at the country with suspicion, and the last 12 February 2013 nuclear tests only strengthened it.
Combat composition of the DPRK Air Force. According to AirForces Intelligence, as amended by the Center ACT
* including Chinese Y-5
|Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation|
Including Shenyang JJ-2
Including Shenyang F-5 / FT-5
Including Shenyang F-6 / FT-6
MiG-21bis (L / M)
30 MiG-21bis were acquired in Kazakhstan in 1999.
Including MiG-21PFM and Chengdu F-7
Including MiG-29 (9-13)
Including collected in the DPRK (often referred to as Hyokshin-2)
Including Harbin Z-5
|Nanchang Aircraft Manufacturing Company|
It is believed that 40 was delivered in 1982.
Perhaps written off. This type is also sometimes described as Su-7BCL.